Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Boy Named Charlie Brown


Last night, I was hanging around at home trying to catch up on things. “Things” – you know - the stack of bills and papers that need to be filled out and/or filed and what not. I’ve been avoiding it forever. I didn’t make much progress either, because after I ate some food, I got sucked into a showing of “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” on ABC Family. For some reason, they were showing it as part of their Christmas lineup. This is odd, because it has zero to do with Christmas. At any rate, this was the first time I’ve seen this movie since I was like 4-5 years old. Yet, I still remembered it vividly. It was the first movie I ever remember seeing in an actual movie theater. It was at the Hollywood Theater here in Portland in like 1975-76. The same theater where I would later see movies such as “ET,” “The Crow,” some French movie that would be considered porn, if it weren’t French and filmed in black and white (making it an art movie), and a professional bowling documentary. A group of kids from the neighborhood went and were guided by some of our older siblings. Going in, I believe I was well aware of the Peanuts story – having watched the specials on TV, but I don’t think I could’ve ever been prepared for this movie. It is so damn dark! The entire movie is a series of humiliating experiences for the downtrodden Charlie Brown. Somehow, he finds success in his school’s Spelling Bee, and moves on to bigger national competitions, until he ultimately loses over a word he should know better than almost any other. Now that I’ve spoiled the plot, I will continue. As a young child, I was affected by this movie in a very dramatic way. I don’t know if it’s because even as a little child I identified with Charlie Brown, or if his character influenced me. I was profoundly saddened through the entire movie. I wanted so badly for him to succeed. I ached for him in his bus travels to the competitions, which were long and tiresome and extremely lonely (immaculately portrayed by the solid and muted colors of the animation). The lack of adult characters in the Peanuts series also somehow added to the emptiness to this kid who hadn’t ventured away from his parents very often up to that point, but was now out without his. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but I wrote a short fragment story for this blog yesterday entirely based on a piece of paper I found that had “Nineteen days after” written on it – so I guess it doesn’t matter.

Watching “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” last night got me to thinking. Why did/do I identify with “Chuck” so much? Maybe it’s because during my life, people have associated me with him. Maybe it’s my giant head. Maybe it’s my attitude and disposition. When I was in High School, the drama teacher asked me to play the part of Charlie Brown when they were planning on doing the musical “You’re A Good Boy Charlie Brown.” I was confused and did not accept, which turned out good for everyone, because that small community was spared hearing my singing voice (which as the game “Rock Band” has proven, I get booed off the stage), but Ken did a much greater job than I could’ve ever hoped for. My dad even painted a Peanuts related painting around the time I was born! It has stuck with me throughout my entire life. And watching it again, after thirty some odd years, it affected me exactly as it did when I was 4-5 years old, except now, I am much more jaded and used to all of those “lost” feelings. I found it interesting that at the end of the movie, Charlie Brown is so distraught over his failure that he shuts himself into his room and refuses to face the world again. Linus comes to visit and convinces him to go out again. When Charlie Brown finally goes back out in to the world, he sees his friends out and about. He sees some of the girls jumping rope and a couple of the boys playing marbles. They are all oblivious to him. This element of adding the stab that he is inconsequential to his already strong ache of failure is downright devastating. There are many important lessons in the Peanuts movies and specials, but I think the main one is a lesson in absolute humility.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Waiting for the Sirens' Call


Nineteen days after. “After what?” he thought to himself. Every damn day is the same. What’s the point in defining distinction to a specific day?

“I’m tired of your fatalism,” she said to him as she reached her hand out for a moment.

He looked down and agreed that she most likely was tired of him and his attitude. He felt like a cancer that was slowly eating away at all of his relationships. “Why don’t you go then?”

“I think I will. I need some air. I need some sunshine in my life.”

And with that, she turned quickly, slid her arms into her waist length jacket and opened the door front door. She turned back to him from the doorway first and watched him for a moment. He was sitting on the chair with his elbows on his knees and his head facing the carpet, ignoring her. She thought about saying something conciliatory, but decided against it. Instead she walked out and shut the door quietly behind her.

He took a deep breath and finally looked up. He kept focusing on this idea that nothing ever changes. Why is that? She had made her ultimatum and nearly three weeks had passed. He couldn’t remember what she threatened or what the timeline was. Maybe his deadline had already come and gone. Maybe he was once again too late. He remembered some words similar to “next step” and “advancing” coming from her lips, but didn’t really pay any mind to them. She had always been alluding to such things - like anything progresses. She was always asking him what he was waiting for. Wasn’t the answer obvious?

He stood up and stretched. He did feel a pang of guilt that he was relieved that she finally left. He knew she would be back. Her stuff was still there. He walked into the kitchen and looked in the cupboards for something to snack on. There was nothing that caught his fancy. He wasn’t sure what he wanted anyway. He laughed to himself, when he realized that she would’ve known exactly what he would’ve wanted for a snack. She would’ve created something where from these random items and it would’ve quelled the pit in his stomach for another stretch of empty time. Why would she do such a thing? Was she simply trying to prolong his agony, or her own?

He left the kitchen and shuffled into the other room again. He had arranged the room, so that there was a variety of seating surrounding a large low square table. The side along the wall was lined with a couch, while the other three sides were lined with mismatching chairs. He flopped himself onto the couch and placed his cheek onto his hands. He watched the door over on the empty side of the front room. Maybe if he could fall asleep he could eat up some more time – to find a way to get through another day.